Cuba-U.S. Talks Hit Snags

Contentious Issues Arise
Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
        The third round of diplomatic talks between America's Roberta Jacobson and Cuba's Josefina Vidal were held in Havana Monday. This session was much different than the first one held in Havana in January and the second one held in Washington in February. Unlike the first two, this one was hastily announced just hours before Jacobson flew to Havana on Sunday. For another, journalists for the first time were barred from attending the session. Also, unlike the first two meetings, neither Jacobson nor Vidal met with reporters at the end of the day for summary statements and long Q & A sessions. This time, Vidal heatedly mentioned what she considers the U. S. "sponsorship of turmoil and nascent coups in nations that are strong Cuban allies." She particularly referenced "the surging coup in our region against democratically elected Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela" and "the impeachment proceedings underway in Brazil against the two-time democratically elected Dilma Rousseff." Vidal also mentioned "U. S. support of dissidents against Cuba's friends in Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and elsewhere around the region." Vidal angered Jacobson when she said, "It seems to me that the U. S. is not ashamed that in Venezuela today it is supporting a coup against Maduro similar to the one against Chavez in 2002 and the very same Cuban-American contingent in your U. S. Congress are allowed, without restrictions, to impose sanctions, wage economic warfare, and possibly assist coups against any of Cuba's friends in the region." Beyond the sparks evoked by the Venezuelan issue, Jacobson continued her efforts to have embassies in Havana and Washington prior to the Summit of the Americas that begins in Panama on April 10th. Calmly, Jacobson told Vidal the U. S. wants more diplomats at its Havana embassy than Cuba suggests and she told Vidal that the U. S. wants its diplomats to have "unrestricted" travel around the island. Vidal then calmly told Jacobson that Cuba must be removed from the U. S. Sponsors of Terrorism list and that it is "unreasonable" to think that Cuba will open a full embassy in Washington while the U. S. bars it from having "a bank necessary for us to conduct routine business." This assessment at what transpired at yesterday's hastily called session in Havana was not confirmed by either Jacobson or Vidal and, for the first time, reporters were not allowed to closely observe. Prior to yesterday's meeting President Obama had secretly sent Mark Erwin, a former U. S. ambassador to Mauritius, to meet with Vidal. Erwin reported back that Vidal was willing to open embassies prior to April 10th. That's why the third round between Jacobson and Vidal was announced late on a Friday.
     Interestingly enough, Jen Psaki -- the chief spokesperson for the U. S. State Department -- ended up this week saddled with recapping the Jacobson-Vidal session in Havana. Psaki was asked about allegations that the U. S. is supporting "another coup in Venezuela," presumably on behalf of a few powerful Cuban-Americans in the U. S. Congress. Psaki's exact answer was: "As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means." Her statements solicited laughs from reporters who reminded her of U.S.-backed Latin American coups, including the 2002 coup that briefly overthrew Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to make way for a anti-Cuban Venezuelan government which the Bush administration, on behalf of anti-Castro zealots Otto Reich and Roger Noriega, quickly recognized only to create a huge U. S. embarrassment when a popular uprising restored Chavez to power within hours. Psaki faced that rebuke from journalists as best she could. If you want to see Psaki's exchange with those dubious journalists, you can view the video on Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now" website as it was featured on Democracy Now's News Hour this week. The mainstream U. S. media, unlike Amy Goodman, is too afraid to report on such things because to do so might upset some powerful Cuban-Americans in Congress. Also, after her news conference yesterday, the very competent Jen Psaki was heard, when she didn't think her mike was live, "smirking about alleged U. S. coups." That "smirk" was covered, you'll note, by the mainstream U. S. media that usually covers only anti-Cuban Cuban news.
     This Wikipedia photo shows Cuban college students...all well-educated and healthy. These deserving young women are keenly interested in the ongoing attempts to normalize relations with their superpower neighbor, the United States. From such standpoints as education, health, and safety, Cuban females have fared far better in Revolutionary Cuba than the females in the thieving, brutal Batista-Mafia dictatorship. If Americans are not supposed to understand that, it reflects direly on the fact that the Cuban Revolution says a lot more about the United States than it says about Cuba. Young women like these should not continually be punished by domestic revolutionary mistakes nor should they continually be punished because a mere handful of two generations of Cuban-Americans still seek revenge, not to mention economic and political power, from their safe and prosperous sanctuaries on U. S. soil. Cuba has 11.2 million innocent people on the island. There are about 5.59 million females and 5.57 million males. Cuba has 7.2 million whites, 1.5 million blacks, and just under 3.0 million mulattoes or mestizos. They deserve the opportunity to shape their own futures without imperialist or revengeful interference from foreign entities.
          As things now stand on the island of Cuba, Josefina Vidal has the intelligence, the courage, the power, and the decency to shape what could be a happy and prosperous future for the Cubans on the island. A few self-serving Cuban-Americans and their self-serving sycophants will, as always, try to prevent that from happening. Sadly, they will probably succeed. Since the 1950s, two generations of Americans have not cared what happened to Cubans on the island, which is also an obvious hint that the last two generations of Americans have cared less and less about their democracy. And that's how a U. S. policy towards Cuba, one that is opposed by the region and the world, can exist...decade after decade!!
By the way....................
        .................this is an absolutely amazing photo. It shows Ted Cruz -- the Cuban-American Senator by way of Canada and Texas -- campaigning in New Hampshire this week to become President of the United States in 2016. In this photo he is trying to calm down a 3-year-old girl name Julie Trant. In speaking to a crowd of supporters, Cruz ranted about how President Obama and Democratic Presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton "has set the world on fire!" Lo 'n behold, off to Cruz's left, Julie, sitting on her mother's lap, said softly "The world is on fire?" Cruz heard her and stepped over to her, telling her, "The world is on fire, yes. Your world is on fire." Later, Julie's mother explained that Cruz's rant did not, in fact, scare Julie and that both the mother and child believe Cruz is the one who can "put out the fire." In any case, Julie's headline-making question is a reminder that if either Mr. Cruz or Mr. Rubio becomes President of the United States in 2016, it will crown this fact: The resurrected Cuban-Americans will have captured the U. S. before they recaptured Cuba!!!
         There are two Cuban-American Senators -- Marco Rubio from Florida and Ted Cruz from Texas -- who are now campaigning hard to get the Republican presidential nomination. Considering the prime problems of other Republican contenders -- Bush, Christie, Perry, etc. -- Rubio and Cruz have legitimate shots. And considering Hillary Clinton's problems -- secret emails, foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, Wall Street ties, etc. -- the Republican nominee might well win the Presidency in 2016. Of the two anti-Castro Cuban-American zealots, Rubio has the best chance by far because of the support he has from the Bush dynasty {if Jeb backs out}, the Tea Party, Fox News, and a host of right-wing billionaires. Cruz is considered too extreme for many of the conservative and even right-wing Rubio supporters. But Cruz is much smarter than Rubio and doesn't have nearly as many background problems in Texas as Rubio has in Florida -- such as revelations this week about yet another shady Rubio real estate deal, this one in Tallahassee where a home co-owned with a disgraced Cuban-American politician, Rubio's best friend, made headlines. Also, Cruz is a far more brilliant orator and extemporaneous speaker than Rubio. But, yes, Cruz is even more radical than Rubio -- as 3-year-old Julie Trant discovered yesterday in New Hampshire! From the mouths of babes wisdom sprouts...or at least a pertinent sentence tagged with an appropriate question mark.
Is the world on fire, Julie?
Well, even if it is...Ted Cruz can put it out!!
And by the way....................
......this Baltimore Oriole loves Oranges!!
{Photo courtesy: Rebecca Granger & Birds & Blooms Magazine}


"Vidal" Now The Key Cuban Name

Josefina Vidal & Pavel Vidal
Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
    This AP photo shows Roberta Jacobson, the U. S. Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Western Hemisphere Affairs, arriving in Havana Sunday -- March 15th.
Cuba's Josefina Vidal. {Photo courtesy: Reuters/Gary Cameron}
      Starting Monday -- March 16th, 2015 -- America's Roberta Jacobson will go head-to-head across an amicable table with Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs. This is the third such session between the two diplomats as they seek to re-establish diplomatic relations between their two nations. The first session was held in Havana, the second in Washington, and now the third is back in Havana. As I will explain later, all this diplomacy got a kick-start in October of 2013 when U. S. President Barack Obama watched a video of a speech Josefina Vidal made at Colombia University. The brilliant Ms. Vidal is a quintessential peace-maker but if she can pull this one off she will deserve the next five Nobel Peace Prizes -- at least!
      Next week, because of the ground-breaking overtures Josefina Vidal has made with President Obama, this very important lady will be Havana for key discussions on March 23rd and 24th. This is Federica Mogherini. She was born 41 years ago in Rome and she is now the European Union's Chief of Foreign Relations. Ms. Mogherini hopes the 28-nation EU can sharply increase trade relations with Cuba. When she announced her trip to Havana, Ms. Mogherini said, "Cuba is facing a very interesting period and the European Union is keen to see how we can take the relationship forward with strong momentum." The very significant reason "Cuba is facing a very interesting period" is because of the diligence and brilliance of one person -- Josefina Vidal.
        French President Francois Hollande, encouraged by U.S.-Cuban detente, will arrive in Cuba on May 11th. No previous French head of state has visited the island.
       Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, has emerged as arguably the most important person on the island in 2015. She has virtual unrestricted decision-making power in the ongoing negotiations with the United States to normalize relations with Cuba. In her prime, the awesomely capable Cuban has stepped into the limelight as the 88-year-old unwell Fidel Castro and the 83-year-old tired Raul Castro engage in the process of transitioning power to non-Castros.
   Josefina Vidal's brilliant, heart-wrenching speech at the Kennedy Library in Boston in 2002 stunned Caroline Kennedy and some of America's top historians. This photo shows Ms. Vidal moments before she stood up and delivered a brilliant, heart-wrenching speech at Columbia University in New York on September 26, 2013. This entire speech is available on YouTube and you may want to check it out. Why? The speech was shown to President Obama and it encouraged him to begin serious negotiations with Ms. Vidal about normalizing relations with Cuba. 
    Pavel Vidal...note the last name...is a brilliant, young Economics Professor who is being trusted with guiding the long-moribund Cuban economy into the 21st Century.
      Pavel Vidal is internationally respected as an economist. He is currently negotiating with the Paris Club of Nations that claim Cuba owes them $22 billion or so in past debt, with France claiming that Cuba owes it $5 billion. But France and the others are talking with Pavel Vidal on restructuring the debts into a fashion that Cuba can handle. Pavel Vidal believes Cuba needs to become a part of the international monetary system that it has been excluded from for decades because of the U. S. embargo, an embargo that many economists and historians believe would have long-since doomed any other nation in the world, including much larger nations than Cuba.

Cuba needs to resurrect its economy.
Pavel Vidal plans to accomplish that.
Cuba needs normal relations with the U. S.
Josefina Vidal plans to accomplish that.
Moral: "Vidal" is now the key name in Cuba.


Anti-Castroism & U.S. Politics

It Can Get You Rich Quickly
Meanwhile, Cuban tourism is booming!!
Tuesday, March 10th, 2015
       Tourism in Cuba is exploding since the December 17th announcement that the U. S. is trying to normalize relations with the island. This photo is used in promotional ads by The Pestana Group and Blowestravel.com to promote the plush Pestana hotel and beach resort at Cayo Coco. It is typical of what's happening on the island as travel agencies and resort builders seek to take advantage of a gorgeous island that finally, it seems, might cease to be embargoed by its superpower neighbor, the United States. Pestana Hotels & Resorts is a Portuguese company that is sharply increasing its investment in Cuba.
         The Miami Herald Monday -- March 9th -- used this Joe Raedle/Getty Images photo to illustrate a major article about the startling boom in Cuban tourism since President Obama announced plans to normalize relations with the island on December 17th. The article stated: "Foreign visitors are coming to Cuba in droves this winter. That comes on the heels of a record-setting year in 2014 when 3.003 million international visitors arrived in Cuba. And that's not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans who travel to the island to visit family. Canada led the way with 182,101 visitors in January for a 15% increase but Germany with 15,832 and England with 14,526 visitors showed the largest percentage increases. Visitors arrivals for those countries were up 37.8 percent and 32.2 percent, respectively." The article written by Mimi Whitefield pointed out that travel agencies in Canada are suggesting that Canadians visit the island "before it is overrun by American travelers." It also stated: "A Chinese company, Beijing Enterprises Holdings, was in talks with the Cuban state company Palmares to form a joint venture to develop a resort complex with a five-star hotel and golf course in Bellomonte, east of Havana." Chinese, Portuguese, and Brazilian companies are among the most eager investors in Cuba as they perceive American companies will soon join the competition.
      This Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times photo shows the Mariel Port, which is 28 miles southwest of Havana and now much deeper and much more modern than other Caribbean ports, including the famed one in Havana. Mariel Port has been undergoing a huge billion-dollar upgrade mostly funded by Brazil. 
       This Carolyn Cole/Los AngelesTimes photo shows 34-year-old Yolexeis Abat Duanes. Like many other Cubans, Yolexeis now has a well-paying job at the refurbished deep-water Mariel Port, which is the hub for an ambitious Industrial Complex that is expected to provide many other well-paying jobs for Cubans.
       Later this month Jose Marti Airport in Havana will begin getting a major renovation. The work will be done by Odebrecht, the Brazilian Construction Conglomerate. Such projects reflect the long-overdue modernization of the island's infrastructure. Whether or not President Obama's dream of normalizing relations with Cuba materializes, his impetus has sparked interest from many other foreign investors. 
      This Flickr photo shows U. S. Senator Marco Rubio and his wife Jeanette, a former cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins, presumably arriving for a fund-raiser. The photo was used to illustrate a March 6-2015 article entitled "Marco Rubio Has A 'Big Money' Problem." The article -- an extremely long and well-documented and well-researched one -- was written by highly respected business journalist Leslie Larson and it appeared initially on the Business Insider website, one of the world's most viewed online sites. Despite the length of the article, I believe it is worthwhile for democracy-loving Americans to read and study every word of it. Ms. Larson dutifully reveals how the nexus of America's money-crazed political world with anti-Castro zealotry can get you very rich very fast...and if you happen to be from Miami it can also get you entrenched in the U. S. Senate and quickly establish you as a Presidential candidate!! Still in his 20s in Miami, Rubio had all of those things going for him. Then when he reached out and grabbed the obligatory coattails of the Bush dynasty, the Tea Party, and Fox News, he was off to the races on a fact-track from Miami to Washington. Rubio quickly, as Ms. Larson details, went from broke to rich in Miami with some, huh,  highly questionable use of credit cards and political donations. He quickly zipped all the way to the U. S. Senate with the obligatory reminder in his bio stating that his parents had escaped the tyranny of Castro's Cuba for the freedom of Miami. Of course, soon the Washington Post and the St. Petersburg Times had revealed that, huh, Rubio's parents had actually escaped the Batista tyranny in Cuba for the freedom {to get rich?} in Miami. But, hey, Rubio has never had to worry about little missteps with either money or facts because he surely can afford a powerful publicity staff, including CNN's "Cuban expert" Ana Navarro, to easily overwhelm both the U. S. media and the unwitting and mostly uninformed American citizens.
        This is Leslie Larson, the brilliant business journalist who wrote the March 6-2015 article "Marco Rubio Has A 'Big Money' Problem." Better than any article I've read, Ms. Larson explains how the business of American politics has evolved into a get-rich-quick scheme because of unlimited and often unaccounted-for campaign donations that, in effect, purchase the political acumen of politicians even before they get elected. The Founding Fathers envisioned politics as a Public Service contribution by decent people to their cherished democracy. It is perhaps merciful that they are not around to witness modern-day politics transforming into primarily a plethora of money-making enterprises. Such politicians are willing to beg for money and sell their souls to the highest bidders. And then, with their cherished PACS stuffed with cash, they can advance from one small location -- such as the Little Havana section of Miami -- all the way to the U. S. Congress and even the White House where they can then influence the lives of all Americans, not just the lives of people in, say, the Little Havana neighborhood from whence they came. Therefore...I suggest, if you are interested in democracy, that you google "Leslie Lawson, Business Insider, Marco Rubio Has A 'Big Money' Problem." If earlier you had studied Rubio's career from Miami-to-the-U. S. Senate-to-presidential contender and determined he was a one-trick pony -- "Anti-Castro"  -- I believe Ms. Lawson's penultimate article would convince you that Mr. Rubio actually has two ponies, the other one being "Big Money." He merely rode his little pony "Anti-Castro" from Miami to the U. S. Senate. Now he is riding his big pony "Big Money" on the short, well-greased journey from the U. S. Senate to the White House...he hopes!
       Marco Rubio, in essence, is a product of the Cuban Revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in 1959 and to this day says a lot more about the United States than it says about Cuba. It says that Marco Rubio is now a very, very rich young man from Miami and is willing to give up his lush seat in the U. S. Senate for a serious presidential bid. It also says precisely what the above photo shows. The photo was taken by Carolyn Cole for the Los Angeles Times and was featured in the LA Times outstanding gallery of photos by Ms. Cole entitled "Portraits of Cuba." The LA Times used this exact caption below this photo: "Men playing a game of dominoes on the side of the road in Havana. More than 50 years after the Cuban Revolution ended, some things have changed in the country, but due to the U. S. embargo, much remains the same." For over 50 years, Marco Rubio and other now rich and powerful Cuban-Americans have benefited greatly from using the incomparable power and resources of the United States to maintain such revengeful dictations to Cuba as the embargo, which was put in place in 1962 for what de-classified U. S. documents reveal was for the purpose of starving and depriving Cubans on the island for the purpose of inspiring them to rise up and overthrow Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro at age 88 is still there and un-thrown. But, yes, the Cuban people for all these years have been starved and deprived -- largely because of that anachronistic embargo as the LA Times photo and caption opined. And, yes, such punishments as the embargo have enormously enriched and empowered two generations of transplanted Cuban-Americans, such as Rubio the Presidential Contender. The fact that Americans are not supposed to react to such infringements on the basic fabric of the U. S. democracy reflects that other U.S.-Cuban fact: The Cuban Revolution says a lot more about the United States than it says about Cuba. One thing it says is that the last two generations of Americans have had neither the courage nor the patriotism to do anything about it.


Visit Cuba to Know Cuba

Then Vent Your Own Propaganda
Updated: Sunday, March 8th, 2015
      If you visit Cuba these days this is a common sight you would see -- buildings displaying both the American and Cuban flags. The flags blowing in the tropical breeze seem to be speaking softly, hoping the mutual efforts by the two nations will succeed in normalizing relations. Most Cubans want it to happen. Most Americans, including those in Miami, want it to happen. Most citizens of the world want it to happen. But it probably won't happen. A few vicious Cuban-American benefactors don't want it to happen. From Batistiano bastions in Miami and Union City, a handful of Cuban-Americans have dictated America's Cuban policy since 1959. That won't change in 2015. The American democracy is still strong, but not quite that strong. 
     This week Conan O'Brien devoted his whole TBS late-night program to Cuba after his visit to the island consumed four days. His video crew preceded his arrival and got some interesting footage of everyday life on the nearby "wickedly oppressed" but "utterly fascinating" nation, which sometimes is just called "wickedly appealing."
     Conan O'Brien has been one of America's most notable comedians for the past 22 years and his wackiness on the streets of Havana entertained the Cubans. There were no restrictions on where he could go or who he could talk to, so he engaged in entertaining dialogue with a beautiful Cuban woman in a bar, a charismatic Cuban teacher who tried, mostly in vain, to teach him some Spanish, and another diligent Cuban escorted Conan through a large pig farm. On the streets, including the famed Malecon promenade, Conan's interactions with everyday Cubans highlighted his visit.
    Jake Tapper is one of CNN's top anchors and generally considered the networks most erudite and best informed anchor. Yet, his ignorance regarding Cuba is not surprising because, I assume, he has never been there and thus has been susceptible, for all his 45 years of life, to propaganda about the island, mostly from unchallenged Cuban-exile sources. That is not to say that revolutionary Cuba is beyond criticism; indeed it is not and I have criticized it.  {But, seemingly unknown to Tapper, the Batista-Mafia dictatorship that preceded it was not exactly a Mother Teresa-type rule}. This week Tapper interviewed Conan O'Brien to promote Conan's program about Cuba. One of Tapper's questions inquired about the "Cuban minders" who, Tapper assumed, allowed Conan to see only what they wanted him to see and go only where they wanted him to go. Conan seemed to shock Tapper when he explained there were "no minders" and both Conan and his large crew were told they could go wherever they wanted and see whomever they wanted with no restrictions. I was told the exact same thing when I was in Cuba to research Celia Sanchez. 
        Chris Cuomo is another very intelligent CNN anchor. He's also very ignorant about Cuba, which I assume he has never visited but, for all of his 44 years of life, has been told what to think, mostly by Cuban-exiles or their sycophants who have their own special agendas, often monetary ones. Recently, Cuomo interviewed someone who had been to Cuba and tried, unsuccessfully, to get that guest to talk about "the decades of brutality" revolutionary Cuba has subjected its people to since 1959 -- implying, of course, that prior to 1959 the Mother Teresa-type Batista-Mafia dictatorship had treated the Cuban people sweetly. {I obviously watch CNN because I think it is the best cable network news outfit, especially on Breaking News, but like the biased ones -- Fox and MSNBC -- its money-saving overuse of pundits masquerading as experts is a quick turn-off. I merely use Tapper and Cuomo to point out that even CNN is not capable of providing unbiased, intelligent reporting when the topic is Cuba although CNN does have a bureau in Havana. Biased Cuban reporting shames the U. S. media because, although unwittingly, the nearby island -- daily since the 1950s -- has greatly shaped the region's and the world's image of the United States and its democracy}.
    Andrew M. Cuomo is the 57-year-old Governor of New York and he is the brother of CNN's highest-profile morning anchor Chris Cuomo. Governor Cuomo is already booked for a trip to Cuba because, like other governors, he hopes the warming of relations between the U. S. and Cuba can benefit farmers and businesses from his state. When Governor Cuomo returns from Cuba he will likely be interviewed by Chris Cuomo. I hope a panting Chris does not begin his typical Cuban interview with this question, "Governor, can you begin by telling the American people about all of those Cuban minders who made sure you saw only what those brutal Cuban leaders wanted you to see?" If Chris prefaced his interview with that question, I would assume Andrew, his brother the Governor, would reply something like this: "Uh, Chris, there were no minders. There were no restrictions on my going where I wanted to go and the top dissidents on the island were not off-limits to me. I..." "But, Governor, before we proceed, at least tell us how nervous you were in Cuba. I mean, we have been reporting all week about the Congresswoman from Miami, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, telling us and the world that, quote, 'Cuba is a clear and present danger to the United States.' Now, Governor, we all know the members of Congress from Miami are the very best sources for true information about Cuba, so as a top American politician, how nervous were you in Cuba about that 'clear and present danger?'" If Governor Cuomo answered such a question, his answer might have been: "Well, Chris, I, uh...you know, my staff had, uh, already informed me that Cuba is probably the safest place for me to visit and they also informed me that Cuban people were friendly to Americans and that I...uh, I know this will surprise you...was what I found.'" {Moral of this apocryphal story: Chris Cuomo gets his Cuban data from Miami and Andrew Cuomo will presumably get his data from an actual visit to the island. And, yes, it is a Herculean difference.}.
   Francois Hollande, the President of France, has scheduled a visit to Cuba as the European Union seeks closer relations with the island. President Hollande, instead of getting his Cuban information from Miami, apparently believes it is best to get it first-hand. Of course, Presidents of nations that promote or consider reasonable relations with Cuba -- such as Panama in recent days -- can expert scathing letters on congressional stationery reminding them of the error of their ways. I have read the scathing letters to the Panamanian President. I am not sure the French President has gotten his, but it's probably now in the mail to Paris.
 This Enrique De La Osa/Reuters photo was taken late this week -- Thursday -- in Havana. It shows Christan Leffler, the European Union's top diplomat for the Americas, holding a news conference to conclude his two-day stay in Havana. He told Daniel Trotta of Reuters that the EU is elated with the U. S. effort to normalize relations with Cuba. He said, "The two processes -- America's and ours -- complement each other and we very much welcome the step the U. S. is taking away from constant confrontation. It lifts a cloud that has hung over the region." The EU lifted sanctions against Cuba in 2008 but, because of the worldwide influence of the U. S., has been reluctant to go further. But in Havana this week, Mr. Leffler made it plain that the EU and the rest of the world does not feel so "restrained" in its dealings with Cuba if it does not anger the world superpower, the U. S. As Mr. Leffler and the world understands, that U. S. policy since 1959 has been dictated by self-serving Cuban exiles and their carefully honed sycophants in the U. S. Congress, from Jesse Helms to Lindsey Graham...and beyond.
     This Reuters photo was taken Thursday {March 5that a meeting between Cuba and the European Union. The main Cuban negotiator, depicted on the left-front, is Abelardo Moreno. The primary EU negotiator, on the right-front, is Christian Leffler.
       As President Obama battles a Bastistiano-dominated U. S. Congress in a brave and gargantuan effort to normalize relations with Cuba, Jose Marti Airport in Havana is flush with visitors from the U. S. hoping to benefit from more normal relations with the neighboring island. This Reuters/Getty Images photo shows some of the 95-members of a powerful American Agricultural Coalition that visited Cuba for three days this week. The Americans shown above are sampling fruit and juice from a Cuban farm and it appears they were impressed. Among the 95 Americans in this group were two former U. S. Secretaries of Agriculture. Their visit was appropriate as opposed, say, to calling on Cuban-Americans in Congress to tell them all about Cuba. 
       To praise or damn Cuba, it is best to visit the island and judge it for yourself because the U. S. media is not yet capable of providing Americans an unbiased view. I have been to Cuba and traveled the island from one end to the other, without any restrictions from what Chris Cuomo called "minders." Thus, I believe I can praise it or damn it, which I do in this forum. Yes, a voracious Havana-born member of the U. S. Congress from Miami lobbed a grenade to counter President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and got the usual mainstream media coverage with that "Cuba is a clear and present danger to the United States" propaganda. Such uncontested comments insult the late Tom Clancy and...America.
           By the way, in the past week 88-year-old Fidel Castro was well enough to host the Cuba 5 in his Havana home. They are the five Cubans who had been sentenced in Miami to 15 years to life in American prisons but two were released after serving their terms and the other three secured their freedom as part of the December 17th deal that freed American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison. In this photo, the most famed member of the Cuba 5 and the one that had received the life sentence in that Miami courtroom, Gerardo Hernandez, is shown shaking hands this week with the seated and obviously very weak Fidel Castro. By the way, this photo shows three of the Cuba 5 paying homage to revolutionary icon. The man on the right is Alejandro Castro Espin. Alejandro is the 49-year-old son of Cuban President Raul Castro and his wife Vilma Espin, the late and legendary revolutionary. Alejandro is a Colonel in the Cuban army and it appears he escorted the Cuba 5 to his uncle Fidel's home in Havana.
    In the early days of March, 2015, Fidel Castro remains very sick and quite weak. Dalia, his wife since 1980 and the mother of his last five sons, minutely determines who gets to see him. "He is 88-years-old," she told Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro two weeks ago. "The illness that almost killed him in 2006 remains my worry. I allow you to see him again but, understand, it is on a good-day/bad-day basis now." Thus, based on his prime care-taker Dalia, February 27th was a "good day" for Fidel because that was the day she allowed the Cuba 5 to spend five hours with him.
On a different topic................
.......this little songbird is a Wood Thrush Sparrow.
{Photo was taken by Marie Read and is used courtesy of Birds & Blooms}


Naty and Fidel

A Revolutionary Love Affair
Updated: Thursday, March 5th, 2015
    Naty Revuelta died Friday, February 27th, at age 89 in Havana. The love of her long life was Fidel Castro. Born on December 6th, 1925, Naty was one year older than the now 88-year-old Fidel. Naty's mom, who had divorced when Naty was a baby, worked for the U.S.-owned Havana Electric Company. A nationalist, the teenage Naty resented the fact that Cuba was "a pawn and a piggy-bank" for the United States. By the time she exited her teens, Naty was considered by many the most beautiful woman on the island. Fidel Castro, the young lawyer, saw her for the first time in 1951 at a rally in Havana honoring Cuban rebels killed in the previous century by Spanish soldiers. Naty was the most beautiful thing Fidel had ever seen. Like many young men in Havana, Fidel's lust for Naty was insatiable. But at age 22 she had married a rich heart doctor named Orlando Fernandez, 20 years her senior. She had a daughter, Nina, with Dr. Fernandez. Fidel had married Mirta Diaz-Balart in 1948 and they quickly had a son they called Fidelito. But by 1953, while married to others, Naty and Fidel shared a common passion -- the defeat of the vile U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Fidel began planning his revolution in early 1953 in Naty's home. She emptied her personal bank account, $6,000, and sold her diamonds and jewels to become the first major supporter of Fidel's nascent revolutionary ideas. It was in Naty's home that Fidel, Haydee Santamaria, Melba Hernandez and other young rebels planned the ill-fated attack on Batista's Moncada Army Barracks on the edge of Santiago de Cuba on the island's southeastern tip. Many of the 120 rebels were shot to pieces in that attack on July 26-1953 and the rest were soon captured -- including Fidel, Haydee, and Melba. Most of the captured rebels were tortured and murdered but Fidel and the two females were imprisoned at the behest of Batista's prime supporter, the United States. The disastrous Moncada attack had made Fidel the hero for the majority peasants who were being unmercifully maligned and, if they even meekly resisted, they were routinely butchered by Batista's forces, especially the infamous Masferrer Tigers. In prison Fidel sent a litany of now-famous love letters to Naty. One ended up being sent to Mirta, leading to her divorce from Fidel. In May of 1955, to sate the rumblings of the peasants, the U. S. prevailed upon Batista to free Fidel, Haydee, and Melba. Batista complied because he wanted the opportunity to murder the closely monitored Fidel away from the prying eyes of the peasants and New York Times reporter Herbert L. Mathews. Tailed by hit-men, female admirers Celia Sanchez, whom Fidel had never seen, and Naty, whom he had seen, provided a sequence of safe houses for Fidel before he could escape to the U. S. and Mexico where he wanted to recruit money and men before returning to Cuba to wage revolutionary war against Batista. One of the safe houses was owned by Naty and that's where she was impregnated by Fidel Castro. Their daughter was named Alina.
     Naty had one daughter, Nina, with Dr. Fernandez but they divorced when he learned how deeply her affection for Fidel really was. Her illicit daughter with Fidel, Alina {shown here with Naty}, was born in March of 1956, six months before Fidel left Mexico to join Celia Sanchez in the Sierra Maestra Mountains to wage the Revolutionary War against Batista, finally chasing the Batistianos off the island in the wee hours of January 1, 1959. But by age 12 Alina had grown rebellious and disliked Fidel, some say because of jealousy while others say because he refused to shower her and her friends with luxuries. By 1956 when he was in Mexico, Fidel had divorced Mirta and Naty had divorced Dr. Fernandez. Fidel sent word for Naty to join him in Mexico so they could get married. She refused but only because she believed "you will not live long because the Batistianos, the Mafia or the U. S. will soon kill you." Throughout the 1960s, the 1970s and into the 1980s, all three of his prime enemy factions -- as correctly named by Naty -- tried their best to kill him but, somehow, Fidel survived as Cuba's leader. In 1993 Alina defected to Madrid before ending up in Miami, Florida. 
      Alina carried with her to Spain the torrid love letters Naty had received from the imprisoned Fidel. They were indeed steamy. In one of the letters, Fidel wrote: "I am on fire. Write to me for I cannot live without your letters." Alina sold the private letters to a publisher, greatly embarrassing her father and direly breaking her mother's heart when they were published internationally. From 1993 till today, Alina has told the world that she defected from Cuba because of what her father "was doing" to Cuba. But Naty and others believed her teenage hatred of her father was because he refused to shower her or her friends with the luxuries she expected from the leader of a nation, a leader who was born rich but who happened not to shower himself or his other nine children with luxuries. In any case, like many other defectors, Alina has grown very rich in the U. S. as an anti-Castro zealot. In her anti-Castro books, her anti-Castro talk show in Miami, and especially via her lucrative anti-Castro speeches on college campuses across America, Alina -- like many other anti-Castro defectors in Miami, Florida -- is now a rich lady, living in homes far more luxurious than the modest one her father still lives in on the western edge of Havana.
This is a Dec. 7-1953 prison letter from Fidel to Naty.
This is a Feb. 9-1954 prison letter from Fidel to Naty.
     Alina Fernandez, the daughter of Naty and Fidel, had recently been making monthly trips to Havana from Miami as Naty's battle with emphysema worsened. Alina was there when Naty's body was cremated, after which Alina attended a very private memorial ceremony. Cuba readily allowed Alina's visits from Miami.
      While Alina made regular trips to Cuba to visit her ailing 89-year-old mother Naty, the chasm between Alina and her ailing 88-year-old father, Fidel, is far too wide for her to visit him. While he is abundantly aware that Alina, since 1993, has aligned herself with the anti-Castro faction in Miami, Fidel has never been known to say an unkind word about her. It is also known that he keeps this photo in his bedroom.
Castro's daughter: A Cuban-American tragedy.
   Throughout her adult life, the sultry, beautiful, blond, green-eyed Naty maintained her intense love for Fidel Castro and her eternal devotion to the revolution that she helped him forge.
      As she aged, Naty more and more became reclusive as she tried to avoid the unwanted limelight. But her relationship with Fidel has always fascinated both the public and troves of journalists. This photo of a smoking Naty illustrated a long article in US News & World Report magazine. In the article, Naty lavishly confirmed her undying love for Fidel. She was so effusive, in fact, that she was asked if there was any one thing she would criticize him for. She unhesitatingly replied, borrowing a famous line from a Jose Marti poem: "Not even with the petal of a rose." She loved Marti but she loved Fidel more: "Marti tried really hard but died on the battlefield; Fidel tried but lived".
       This is one of the last and one of the greatest photos ever taken of Naty Revuelta. The photographer was Sven Creutzmann. It shows Naty in a rocking chair in her Havana home. Over her right shoulder is a portrait of her when she was young. Over her left shoulder is a portrait of Fidel when he was young. The expression on her still beautiful face indicated that her memories will be forever young, as they should be.
{Naty: Dec. 6, 1925--Feb. 27, 2015}
     Naty Revuelta will always be remembered for two monumental things: Her enormous beauty and her enormous love for Fidel Castro. Georgia Anne Geyer, America's seminal Castro biographer, wrote in her book "Guerrilla Prince": "Naty was one of the most exquisitely beautiful women in Cuba and a woman with an abnormally sensuous appetite for revolution and adventure." Ted Szulc, in his excellent book "Fidel: A Critical Portrait", wrote: "Naty was one of an extraordinary contingent of beautiful and/or highly intelligent women who, in effect, dedicated their lives to Fidel and his cause." Above all that beauty and notoriety, Naty was a sweet and gentle lady. She had 89 remarkable years. Her cremated ashes will forever remain in Cuba and she will forever be a part of two legacies -- Fidel Castro's and the Cuban Revolution's. Her life was well-lived. May she rest in peace.
      The two most important women in Fidel Castro's life have been Celia Sanchez and Haydee Santamaria. They are shown here flanking Fidel shortly after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. He has always maintained that Celia and Haydee "were more vital to the revolution than me or any others." Indeed, Celia and Haydee eclipsed Fidel and the others when it came to fighting, planning, and recruiting -- the prime elements that defeated Batista. Fidel was still a young, powerful, and vigorous leader of Cuba in 1980 when Celia died of cancer and Haydee committed suicide because of Celia's death. After first Celia died and then Haydee, Fidel endured the darkest and saddest days of his life, as revealed by intimates and his best biographer, Georgie Anne Geyer.
      Fidel Castro's recognition of Celia Sanchez and Haydee Santamaria as the two most important cogs in the Cuban Revolution is a fact recognized by the best Cuban historians, such as Pedro Alvarez Tabio and Marta Rojas. Haydee and Celia are shown above leading a guerrilla army in the Sierra Maestra while Fidel was off the island for almost two years right after he had spent almost two years in a Batista prison. The revolution was essentially over -- except for the fact that Celia and Haydee not only kept it supplied but led the front-line fighting that kept Batista's army from winning.
    When Fidel finally joined Celia and Haydee in the Sierra Maestra in December of 1956, the two female guerrilla fighters provided him his first rifle {above}. On his treacherous journey from Mexico to hook up with Celia, the old yacht Granma leaked badly and had to be ditched fifteen miles up the coast from the beach where Celia waited. A phone call from Mexico City had tipped off Batista about the yacht's departure. A Batista helicopter spotted the leaking Granma and Batista soldiers set up an ambush as the unarmed men swam to shore. All but 17 of the 82 men aboard the Granma were killed. Celia still got there in time to save Fidel and sixteen others, including future commanders Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos. Fidel's rifle and ammunition belt were at the bottom of the ocean when Celia saved his life. That's why Celia and Haydee showed him the weapon in the above photo. 
     In addition to leading the guerrilla fighting against Batista's forces, Celia and Haydee were the revolution's top recruiters of rebels, weapons, and money. This photo shows Celia and Haydee in the heart of the Sierra Maestra showing Fidel a stash of $100 bills that Haydee had gotten in Miami after Celia sent her on the mission in which Haydee reluctantly went because she preferred staying in the Sierra "fighting the Batistianos." Her motivation was fueled by Batista's brutality to the peasants but greatly exacerbated when, in prison after the Moncada attack in July of 1953, Haydee was unmercifully tortured. One day she was tied to a chair and forced to watch as her fiancee was tortured to death and then his testicles were cut off and rubbed on her chest. So, it's understandable that Celia had to encourage her to leave the fighting to make the recruiting trip to Miami. But Celia knew that procuring rebel fighters, weapons, and supplies was the lifeblood of the revolution. By the time Fidel returned from Mexico, Celia was receiving shiploads and planeloads of weapons and supplies from friends she had cultivated atop the government of Venezuela. As the great historian Pedro Alvarez Tabio said, "If Batista had managed to kill Celia Sanchez anytime between 1953 and 1957, there would have been no viable Cuban Revolution, and no revolution for Fidel and Che to join." He could also have said the same thing about Haydee. The Cuban Revolution was a female-inspired and female-fueled revolution. The macho Fidel Castro has always admitted that even though he too fought bravely on the front-lines in the Sierra, at the Bay of Pigs, and elsewhere. The machismo-inspired Batistianos, who precipitously fled the revolution for a safe and lucrative sanctuary on U. S. soil, have always denied that. I, uh...wonder why? 
      This photo montage was vital to Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution. The man is Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal. He was a top Admiral and politician in Venezuela and in 1955 he proclaimed, "The doctor's daughter in Cuba is going to make history if she has a little help." The doctor's daughter was Celia Sanchez. Larrazabal helped her, both before and after he overthrew Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez on January 23rd, 1958. Celia famously kept a million or so dollars in a closely guarded steel box and used it to purchase weapons and supplies. But Larrazabal, a respected family man, told her to "keep your funds for other needs, my love." He provided her, free of charge, valuable weapons and supplies at pre-arranged coastal drop-off points. 
      Keen Cuban historians know the significance of this photo. It was taken in Caracas in February of 1959, just weeks after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. It shows Fidel Castro chatting with Venezuelan Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal. Celia insisted, at that early date, flying to Venezuela so Fidel could personally thank Wolfgang. Cuban security had advised Celia not to go because Rafael Trujillo, the ruthless U.S-backed dictator of the Dominican Republic, had his warplanes patrolling for any Cuban aircraft or boats. But Celia's plane circled wide around the Dominican Republic and her risk paid off although, at the airport before the return flight, Celia's personal bodyguard was killed when he was struck by a propeller on a foggy night. But Fidel did get to thank Wolfgang and President Romulo Betancourt, who was also Celia's dear friend and is still known as The Father of Venezuela's Democracy. Some intimates of Celia maintained that Wolfgang was madly in love with Celia and at several meetings in the early 1950s on an island off the Cuban coast she reportedly reciprocated his love. But Tabio, Rojas, Fidel and others believe that the focused, pragmatic, and business-like Celia loved Wolfgang only because of the huge role he played in helping her achieve her life's primary goal -- beating Fulgencio Batista!!
     Fidel Castro is now 88-years-old and unwell. But he is still Fidel Castro. He has always been an extremely private man, especially where the women in his life are concerned. But the five women, apart from his mother Lina, that he most loved and/or admired are his first wife Mirta Diaz-Balart, his revolutionary soul-mates Celia Sanchez and Haydee Santamaria, his lover Naty Revuelta, and his current wife Dalia Soto del Valle. It was on March 1st that Fidel was told that Naty had died. Only his closest intimates -- Dalia and his eight loyal sons -- would know for sure, but it is believed that Naty Revuelta's death is hurting him more than anything that has transpired in his long and eventful life since Celia and Haydee both died in 1980.
Fidel Castro married Mirta Diaz-Balart in 1948.
Fidel and Mirta had a baby boy, Fidelito, in 1949.
     This is an updated photo of Mirta and Fidelito, an interesting image to ponder. History records that the love letter Fidel wrote to Naty from prison that ended up being received by Mirta helped expedite Mirta's divorce from Fidel, Fidelito's father. Fidel later gained full custody of Fidelito, who is now a scientist and a professor. Mirta to this day maintains a home in Havana and remains motherly and wifely found of Fidelito and Fidel. Now that's interesting. Mirta's brother was the late Rafael Diaz-Balart. He was a key Minister in the Batista dictatorship and then, after the revolution, a fiercely anti-Castro billionaire in Miami. Rafael had four fiercely anti-Castro sons -- Lincoln, Mario, Jose, and Rafael Jr. With great head-starts in Miami, Lincoln and Mario got elected to the U. S. Congress. Jose today -- with his own ubiquitous anchoring programs on both Telemundo and MSNBC/NBC, is America's most anti-Castro news anchor. And Rafael Jr. is one of America's wealthiest bankers. Yet, Mirta -- the brother of Rafael Diaz-Balart and the aunt of his four powerful anti-Castro sons -- is today on close terms with Fidel Castro despite her close relatives in Miami...just as Naty Revuelta all her adult life loved Fidel Castro while her daughter with Fidel, Alina, has grown rich as an anti-Castro zealot in Miami. Trust me, I didn't make that up. I just use it as a reminder that in the U. S., where anti-Castro zealots control the Cuban narrative, Alina and the Diaz-Balarts don't want you to know this fact: All of the primary women in Fidel Castro's life presumably knew him well for many decades -- Mirta, Naty, Celia, Haydee, Melba, Vilma Espin, Tete Puebla, and Marta Rojas in particular. And all loved him all their adult lives. Interesting, huh? But in the U. S. since 1959, as Alina and the Diaz-Balarts can attest, you don't get rich by being pro-Castro but you surely can get rich by proclaiming your hatred of him. Mirta's four nephews from Miami hate him; Naty's and Fidel's daughter in Miami hates him. And they're all very rich! Mirta, Naty, Celia, Haydee, Melba, Vilma, Tete, and Marta...not very rich! Moral: It pays to hate Fidel, especially where anti-Castro/pro-Batista propaganda rules supreme, which is the case in the U. S. since January 1, 1959.  
       On Saturday -- February 28th, the day he learned of Naty's death -- Fidel's son Alex took this photo in the living room of Fidel's Havana home. The lady in the red dress is his wife Dalia, whom he married in 1980 at the request of Celia Sanchez, who was dying of cancer. The five Cuban men huddled around Fidel on February 28th, 2015, are "the Cuban 5." Two of the men had been released after serving almost 15 years in U. S. prisons and the other three were released on Dec. 17th, 2014 in an exchange that freed American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison. The exchange paved the way for Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro to announce plans to normalize relations between the two nations. On March the 1st, his first full day of mourning Naty's death, Fidel wrote a long tribute to the Cuba 5 that was published in the Cuban media and then released worldwide by news agencies. He began that article with these words: "Yesterday, I immediately wanted to converse with the Five Heroes. For five hours, that's what we did." He signed off on the long article with these words: "Fidel Castro Ruz; March 1, 2015; 10:12 P. M." When he finished writing that article at 10:12 Sunday night, he was undoubtedly consumed with his everlasting memories of Naty Revuelta. And surely, they were very private thoughts, as well they should be.
      Remember the earlier photo of Fidelito, the baby Fidel Castro and his wife Mirta had in 1949. Well, this Reuters photo taken a few days ago shows U. S. entertainer Paris Hilton taking a selfie with Fidelito. Time flies and even the sons of Fidel age.
      Paris Hilton posted this photo on her Instagram page with the caption "Cuba baby!" She is standing in front of the Hilton Hotel in Havana. She pointed out that her great-granddad, Conrad Hilton, opened the famed hotel in March of 1958 in the last year of the Batista dictatorship. The Habana Hilton has 25 stories and 515 rooms.
      And speaking of the Hilton Hotel in Havana, this photo was taken in January of 1959. It shows Fidel Castro on a balcony of the Hilton Hotel overlooking Havana. Presumably, he liked the expansive view. After all, the Batistianos had just left. 

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 ...