Fighting The Cuban Embargo

More Brave Souls Step Up
{Updated: Sunday, December 27th, 2015}
{Photo courtesy: Walter Horishnyk/Minneapolis Star-Tribune}
          The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is one of America's biggest and best newspapers. Its biggest and best article yesterday {Dec. 26th} was entitled: "MINNESOTA ARTS GROUPS LEAD A NEW CHARGE INTO CUBA TO CONNECT." The sub-title was: "Minnesotans Are at the Forefront of the Rush to Cuba After Obama's Diplomatic Thaw." The article, written by Kristin Tillotson, said: "Artists often use their work to open doors of understanding. Zenon Dance Company of Minneapolis plans to leap right through such doors when it travels to Cuba next month, January of 2016." The article explained that: "Zenon is joining a wave of arts groups from the Twin Cities {Minneapolis-St. Paul} that is embracing a culture as artistically fertile as Cuba's soil." 

           This Walter Horishnyk photo was also used to illustrate the article by Kristin Tillotson in yesterday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The caption read: "The St. Paul-based American Composers Forum -- 10 composers and six instrumentalists -- in Cuba in November at a prestigious music festival." Those six musicians also {above} livened up the streets of Havana prior to the festival. While anti-Castro extremists from Miami and New Jersey have viciously dictated America's hostile Cuban policy since 1959, yesterday's article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is another reminder that a lot of good people -- especially in the state of Minnesota -- are now following the lead of President Obama and trying desperately to correct what has been a six-decade injustice to both everyday Cubans on the island and the U. S. democracy.

Other Minnesota positives: 
         David Frederickson is the Agricultural Commissioner for the state of Minnesota. This Christmas week, 2015, he led a 17-member entourage to Cuba that conducted an extensive survey of the island's farms, markets, workers, and officials. He now believes there are "pertinent trade opportunities" for Minnesota farmers if President Obama manages to further ease the 1961 embargo, or if "enough businesses can persuade the U. S. Congress to get off...uh, to repeal the embargo." Mr. Frederickson told the Minnesota Star Tribune on December 24th, "Trade is a two-way street and we explored some of the future ways we can work together with Cuba to create the biggest benefit to both of our agricultural economies."
       Amy Klobuchar is the senior U. S. Senator from Minnesota. She is one of the bravest souls in the U. S. Congress fighting to bring sanity and decency to America's Cuban policy. This year she introduced The Freedom To Export To Cuba Act in an effort to repeal the congressionally-mandated embargo of Cuba.
         Tom Emmer is a Republican member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Minnesota. Like Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Emmer is brave enough to take on the pro-embargo Cuban-Americans in the U. S. Congress. Tom Emmer introduced the Cuba Trade Act of 2015 and challenged "the efficacy and decency of an embargo that hurts Cubans, Americans, and the very pillar of our democracy."
        Sarah Stephens is the democracy-loving head of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas. She is America's leading expert on U.S.-Cuban relations and she stands firmly at the forefront as a fierce opponent of the meretricious Cuban embargo, which has been in place since 1962. Last week she wrote, "As support among Cuban-Americans for the President's policy has gone up, the fear-factor...emanating from Miami and New Jersey...has subsided substantially." It is interesting to note, in this last week of 2015, that the "feat-factor" in the United States regarding Cuba does not scare-off or buy-off all members of the United States Congress -- such as Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota and Congressman Tom Emmer from Minnesota. And, of course, Sarah Stephens wouldn't have founded the Center for Democracy in the Americas if the "fear-factor" regarding important topics such as Cuba frightened her.
        The University of Richmond baseball team is shown above on its pre-Christmas trip to Cuba in December, 2015. The Spiders are coached by Tracy Woodson, a former star for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and led by pre-season All-American outfielder Michael Moorman. They played three games in Cuba, posting a 3-1 record. But a Christmas day release by the University of Richmond said the mere experience of visiting Cuba was the highlight. The release said: "The traveling party also got to experience the culture of the capital city of Havana. They experienced a walking tour of the city, including important churches and cultural sites denoting the history of the great city, with visits to forts, museums, the main square, old Havana, the city's Malecon seawall, and the Artisans Market." Such visits help bridge the U.S.-Cuban cultural gaps.


Trumpeting U.S.-Cuba Ties

As Businesses Battle U. S. Congress
{Updated: Christmas Day, December 25th, 2015}
Photo courtesy: Yamil Lage/The Houston Chronicle.
            This week -- Dec. 22-2015 -- the Houston Chronicle published a long Editorial. It was entitled: "END EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA: Even A Majority Of Cuban-Americans Believe It Is Time To Resume Trade With The Island." The Editorial used the above photo of a Cuban trumpeting U.S.-Cuba ties to illustrate its pertinent message aimed at the U. S. Congress, which callously defies sanity, decency, and world opinion to keep in place a hideous embargo first imposed in 1962 for {according to declassified U. S. documents} the stated reason of depriving and starving Cubans on the island for the purpose of inspiring them to overthrow Cuba's revolutionary government. Both the embargo and its premise have failed miserably, except to punish millions of innocent Cubans on the island as well as smearing the image of the U. S. and democracy in the eyes of the world. Such U. S. laws, essentially dictated by revengeful elements of the ousted Batista-Mafia dictatorship, have used nuances within the U. S. Congress to codify and legalize a bevy of U. S. laws designed to sate the revenge, financial, and political motives of a few while harming all others in a discriminating condescension that is totally unprecedented in the annals of the American democracy.

        Cuba, dominating the Caribbean, is due south of Florida. Its strategic location has vast implications for America, the world's dominant nation and democracy. The efficacy of working with Cuba vastly outweighs hostility. It's proximity to the United States commands that, in the Global Warming era, the two neighbors cooperate extensively concerning environmental issues. The Dec. 22-2015 Houston Chronicle Editorial stated: "Texas A & M's Corpus Christi campus is embarking on new research endeavors with Cuba as the United States works to ease relations with the country. The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, one of the few organizations authorized to work in Cuba, is launching new cooperative research work with Cuban scientists and students, focusing on environmental protection. Harte researchers have worked with the Cuban scientific community since 2002, but plan to expand their work now that the U. S. is re-establishing diplomatic ties with the island. Working with Cuba can help provide a better understanding of environmental change in the Gulf, including water quality, sea level rise, and ocean acidification."
       The Dec. 22-2015 Houston Chronicle Editorial, which pleaded for normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States, also stated: "The two largest airlines that carry the most traffic in Houston -- Southwest and United -- want to start regular commercial flights to Cuba." Houston is now the fourth most populace city in the United States.
       Earlier in this month of December, 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, on the left in the above photo, led a huge contingent of Texas officials and businesses to Cuba. The photo is courtesy of Desmond Boylan/Associated Press and it shows Governor Abbott making his case to Cuban officials to consider Texas, with one of the largest economies in the world, as a prime future trade partner. The Cuban officials were cordial during Governor Abbott's three-day visit, but the island is leery of such overtures form the U. S. because, historically speaking, it does not trust its motives.
   Cristina Escobar -- Cuba's young, dynamic, and influential news anchor -- has grudgingly supported rapprochement with the U. S., at least up to this point. But going forward she says, "As long as the U. S. Congress funds regime-change programs that the American people are unaware of, this island should emphasize business and diplomatic dealings with our friends, not with a nation that is still trying to impose its will on us. We are not lacking for friends and, in fact, the whole world supports our positions on the blockade, Guantanamo Bay and other assaults on our sovereignty. If the U. S. ends the blockade, ends the regime-change programs, and returns our port at Guantanamo Bay, then we should go forward with the normalization process with America, but not till those things are earnestly discussed. The USA has unique power and wealth to influence every nation, yet it can acquire the support of just one nation in the world to support its Cuban policy. What does that say about the USA? And about Cuba?"
        Sarah Stephens, the democracy-loving founder and director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, has -- along with President Obama -- led the fight to normalize relations with Cuba. Her Cuba Central segment on the Center for Democracy in the Americas blog each Friday is the best weekly update on U.S.-Cuban relations. In her last posting, she mentioned that yet another poll out of Miami shows a strong majority of Cuban-Americans now support President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. She wrote: "As support among Cuban-Americans for the President's policy has gone up, the fear-factor -- by which we mean the old style, scorching hot opinion emanating from Miami and New Jersey which exerted relentless pressure on policymakers to keep the old policies in place -- has subsided substantially." I believe Americans should re-read that long, pertinent sentence by the democracy-loving Sarah Stephens. Sure, the mainstream U. S. media  -- especially the Talking Head-saturated Cable News channels -- does not have enough guts to air Ms. Stephens' definitive statements regarding Cuba. But "...the fear-factor...emanating from Miami and New Jersey..." has, for sure, dictated America's Cuban policy since the 1950s. Sarah Stephens believes democracy deserves a reprieve. Ms. Stephens ended her last CDA comment with these words: "TEARS OF JOY CELEBRATING DECEMBER 17TH." December 17th, 2014, was the day President Obama went on television to inform the world that he was trying to normalize relations with Cuba. "...the fear-factor...emanating from Miami and New Jersey..." It took courage for Sarah Stephens to write that exact sentence.
        Peter Kornbluh is the democracy-loving Cuban expert at the Washington-based National Security Archive. On December 17th, 2015, Mr. Kornbluh penned an article entitled: "WHY US-CUBA NORMALIZATION IS ACCELERATING." He wrote: "One year after the historic breakthrough, rapprochement has overwhelming support -- including from the business community. More than 70% of Americans support lifting the embargo -- and they're voting with their feet, by traveling there." You can go online and read Peter Kornbluh's entire December 17th article.
        Peter Kornbluh's insightful article included this Ramon Espinosa/AP photo that shows a Cuban flag side-by-side with an American flag in a barbershop on the island. These Cubans in Cuba are America's friends, not enemies. 
         Peter Kornbluh's incisive December 17th article also used this Editorial Cartoon to illustrate three of the hard-line Cuban-American members of Congress from Miami and New Jersey furiously trying to block President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. But in essence, they are blocking the will of many innocent people.
Most Americans approve this brave handshake.



Cuban-U.S. Normalcy: No Chance

Abnormalcy Benefits Too Many
{Updated: Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015}
Photo courtesy: Bryan Anselm/New York Times.
      The photo above was used by the The New York Times to illustrate a major article on Dec. 19-2015. It was entitled: "U. S. and Cuba At Odds Over Exodus of the Island's Doctors." The photo shows a 29-year-old Cuban, Dr. Jose Angel Sanchez, in his new hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. He is one of thousands of Cuban doctors, educated for free in Cuba, who have defected to the U. S. via one of the many regime-change programs funded and legalized with the help of the Bush dynasty. Specifically in Dr. Sanchez's case, the George W. Bush administration in 2006 devised a regime-change program entitled "The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program." It uses tax dollars to entice Cuban doctors working in foreign countries to defect, with incentives, to the U. S. It was not a scheme to replenish a doctor shortage in the U. S., but rather yet another Bush-directed program to hurt Cuba. It has worked so well that, despite the many advances by President Obama to normalize relations with Cuba, such ongoing roadblocks will totally blunt and roll-back all of the Obama overtures. Americans, left out of the U.S.-Cuban loop by a mostly incompetent or intimidated media, are not supposed to comprehend such facts even as they hear about such things as the opening of embassies in Havana and Washington for the first time since 1961, the resumption of direct mail service and direct commercial airplane flights for the first time in over five decades, etc.

        Robert Muse is a Washington-based lawyer and the world's top expert on U. S. laws relating to Cuba. Thus, Mr. Muse knows something that everyday Americans are not supposed to know. He knows that Bush-era laws, such as "The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program," are undemocratic, discriminatory, and probably illegal. The aforementioned December 19th New York Times article quoted Mr. Muse as saying, "No country is going to welcome engineered defections of its nationals. The medical defection law is an exploding cigar left over by the Bush administration." Those two sentences from America's top expert on the legality of U. S. laws related to Cuba are, unfortunately, meaningless. That's because since 1959 the Cuban narrative in the U. S. has been dictated by extremist elements of the ousted Batista dictatorship and their self-serving sycophants, such as the Bush dynasty. As long as the American people in general do not react to such things as the terrorist bombing of a child-laden Cuban civilian airplane or the legalization of such laws as the medical parole program, the Cuban extremists and benefactors like the Bush dynasty will feel free to continue using an easily purchased Congress to enact laws, regulations, and actions supposedly designed "to hurt Castro" while, in fact, enriching and empowering a few at the expense of the many. The aftereffects, such as shaming America's democratic pillars, are of no apparent concern to those who benefit revengefully, economically or politically. All the while, as the Bush-era Cuban dictations remain in place, Americans are supposed to sense that...hey!...the U. S. is normalizing relations with Cuba. Good luck! Ask America's top legal expert, Robert Muse. Or, better yet, ask Cuba's top expert on such U.S.-Cuban matters.

         Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister for North American Affairs, has brilliantly negotiated with the Obama administration a remarkable series of advancements in relations with the United States, most notably the re-opening of embassies for the first time since 1961. But she is abundantly aware, in the closing days of 2015 as Mr. Obama enters the final year of his two-term presidency, "We are, to be honest, at the mercy of an unmerciful group in the U. S. Congress that sets U. S. policy regarding Cuba." By "We" she apparently means herself and President Obama. And she is right. She believes the ignorance or apathy of the American people remains the primary strength of "the unmerciful group" that dictates America's Cuban policy. However, parameters to rein in the excesses don't exist.

         This is the image of the United States that the rest of the world has regarding America's Cuban policy. That fact is headlined each October by a vote in the United Nations. It is also true that most Americans don't give a damn. 

       The sheer ease in which a handful of Cuban-Americans aligned with the Bush dynasty have set America's Cuban policy since the 1980s to benefit them revengefully, economically, and politically at everyone else's expense is, actually, quite simple. First off, not taking a chance on a decent Democratic President, such as Obama, having the Executive Power to change the policy, they codified the most severe Cuban laws in an easily controllable U. S. Congress. That took place in three steps, which are:

{1} The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 {"Torricelli"}.

{2} The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 {"Helms-Burton"}.

and {3} The Trade Sanctions and Reform Act of 2000 ("George W. Bush"}.

      With the above three acts in the U. S. Congress, the Batistianos, aligned tightly with the Bush dynasty, had codified the severest Cuban policy, such as the embargo, solely in the hands of Congress, not taking a chance that a U. S. President would interfere with it. Getting a small but requisite amount of right-wing members of Congress -- Bob Torricelli, Jesse Helms, Dan Burton, etc. -- has never been a problem, a fact that shames democracy even more than it has punished two generations of innocent Cubans on the island, all in the guise of "hurting Fidel Castro," who is now 89-years-old and has only been "hurt" by old age and ill health.

     As if making fun of the world's greatest democracy, the Cuban narrative or propaganda in the U. S. since 1959 has successfully caused the American people to ignore the 191-to-2 vote in the United Nations on October 28th that emphatically supported Cuba's plea to end the U. S. embargo. It has been in effect since 1962 as the longest and cruelest embargo, which Cuba calls a blockade, imposed by a huge, strong country against a much smaller and weaker country. In all the world, when the 193 member nations voted, the U. S., the world's most influential economic and military power, could only purchase or persuade one nation to support its Cuban embargo. And the world understands that Israel is dependent on billions of U. S. dollars yearly as by far the biggest recipient of U. S. foreign aid. But even so, a 191-to-2 worldwide vote should make an impact on anybody!! The fact that it doesn't reflects poorly on the intelligence and courage of the American people who were bequeathed the greatest government in history, which maybe we don't deserve.

It also reflects poorly on Israel, even in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood {above}.

          This USA Today photo informed Americans on Nov. 17-2015 that Nicaraguan police and soldiers, at their border with Costa Rica, stopped hundreds of Cubans who were trying to make their way to the Mexican border. That was over a month ago. Now up to 6,000 Cubans are blocked on the Costa Rican side of the border, with Nicaragua being supported by Guatemala, Belize, and other Latin American nations. The Cubans, mistakenly worried that President Obama has the power to end Wet Foot/Dry Foot, have reportedly paid human traffickers up to $15,000 each to get them to the Mexican border. Once there when their front foot touches U. S. soil they are instantly home-free with instant benefits. Wet Foot/Dry Foot is one of many U. S. laws that powerfully favor Cubans and only Cubans. While it is abundantly clear that Americans will accept such Cuban laws forever, much of the rest of the world -- as indicated by the yearly and implacable UN vote and by the turmoil at the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border -- is tired of it.

       This Marco Ruiz/Miami Herald graphic was compiled over a month ago to illustrate an ongoing situation that is one of countless problems caused by a handful of Batistianos and their easily acquired sycophants in the U. S. Congress having the power to craft and maintain U. S. laws that favor a self-serving few while discriminating against everyone else. Human traffickers and other benefactors of the vast Castro Industry in the U. S. appear to love it.
         From 2000 through 2008 the George W. Bush presidential administration was populated with dozens of Cuban-born, anti-Castro zealots, such as Mike Gonzalez who was born in Cuba and came to the U. S. in 1972 at age twelve. As the Obama two-term presidency replaced the last of the Bush presidencies on Jan. 20th, 2009, many of the dozens of Cuban-born, anti-Castro zealots went on to lucrative anti-Castro positions as lobbyists or with rich and powerful right-wing organizations, such as The Heritage Foundation. In 2009 Mike Gonzales became a Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. On Dec. 21-2015 he wrote a well-funded international article entitled: "Proof That Obama Was Wrong About Cuba." Actually, in my opinion, Mike Gonzalez's article proves Obama was/is right about Cuba.
        This handshake in 2015 spawned a vast resurgence of vitriol from the enormously lucrative Castro Industry in the United States. If sanity and peace between the U. S. and Cuba was allowed to take hold, it would mitigate against the powerful rewards a handful of benefactors have reaped via the U.S.-based Castro Industry since 1959. And that is precisely why the Castro Industry will trump democracy as people like Mr. Obama and Pope Francis wage a very commendable but futile effort to normalize relations between the two neighboring countries.

          At 12:04 P. M. on the afternoon of Dec. 17-2014 President Obama told the American people of his plans to "normalize relations" between the U. S. and Cuba. In the year since, he has done all he can do to live up to that promise. The problem is...a right-wing element in the U. S. Congress can thwart the President's will as well as the hope of the rest of the world, including the majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. It reveals, I think, a gnawing weakness of America's democracy created by a lack of true American patriotism and courage.





Cuba's Baseball Superstar

His Name Is...Tony Castro!!
Photo courtesy: Desmond Boylan/Associated Press.
        This week Major League Baseball gifted the baseball-mad island of Cuba with a highly successful three-day goodwill tour. Led by famed Hall of Famers Joe Torre and Dave Winfield, both of whom are now top MLB executives, the visit included 8 current Major League stars. That included lefty pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball's best pitcher, and Miguel Cabrera, the Venezuelan superstar with the Detroit Tigers and baseball's best hitter. But it was the return of four Cuban Major League stars -- Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Brayan Pena, and Alexei Ramirez -- that dominated the media coverage of the event, which was an offshoot of President Obama's remarkable efforts, against overwhelming odds, to normalize relations with the nearby island. The photo above shows Alexei Ramirez, the veteran shortstop for the Chicago White Sox, back in his native country instructing young Cuban baseball players at a clinic in Matanzas, Cuba. Such clinics were conducted for three days across the island.

     In addition to the numerous clinics, the mere presence of the baseball superstars from America massively thrilled the appreciative Cuban people. At times, emotions simply bubbled over. This photo by Desmond Boylan/AP was taken at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. It shows Brayan Pena, the veteran Major League catcher, greeting his 85-year-old grandmother, Rosa de las Nives, for the first time in seventeen years. The four Cubans who highlighted the goodwill tour back in their home country are all millionaires many times over and they have helped their relatives back in Cuba financially. But prior to President Obama, the strained relations between the two neighboring countries that has persisted since the 1950s prevented such things as this very classic, touching moment captured by photographer Desmond Boylan.

          Of the thousands of photos taken this week during Major League Baseball's 3-day goodwill trip to Cuba, the one above courtesy of Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images is among the most significant. It shows Alexei Ramirez conducting a clinic for Cuban youngsters. The man in the grey T-shirt is the man who made it all happen and is, in fact, the man determined to make a lot more happen, using baseball as the peaceful wedge, to help normalize relations between Cuba and the United States. His name is Tony Castro, one of Fidel's eight sons. A doctor, Tony is by far the most ubiquitous baseball promoter on the island and he is highly respected internationally, including by Major League Baseball in the United States. MLB's goodwill mission to Cuba this week was well-covered by the sports media in the United States, and for good reason. The goodwill mission itself was unique. Now there is talk of the Cincinnati Reds playing two exhibition games in Cuba this coming March. There is even talk, not revived since the 1950s, of Havana in the next decade having its own Major League team. And there is talk that Cuba can be persuaded to allow its cornucopia of baseball talent to reach the U. S. normally and not via the defection process. And there is even talk that in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Cuban superstars in the Majors will be allowed to play for Cuba, which would readily be expected to return the island back to the top rung of international baseball competition. ALL BECAUSE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA...AND NOW TONY CASTRO! That's right: OBAMA and CASTRO!
      Tony Castro shares one thing in common with his legendary, 89-year-old father Fidel: A mutual love of baseball. Tony thinks it can meld Cuba and America together.
      Tony Castro, a medical doctor, is shown here visiting his ailing and now 89-year-old father Fidel, who seems to be holding a replica of the famed yacht Gramna that took him and 81 other rebels on the perilous journey from Mexico to hook-up with Celia Sanchez's revolution against Batista. All eight of Fidel's son, including Tony, remain very devoted and loyal to their father. He, of course, also has two daughters, both of whom live in the Miami area -- one very flagrantly and one very quietly.

   Dr. Tony Castro, like all four of his brothers, is also very devoted to his mother, Dalia Soto del Valle. Dalia married Fidel in 1980 shortly after the death from cancer of his revolutionary soul-mate Celia Sanchez. Dalia is the mother of Fidel's last five sons. 
        Tony Castro is the best known of Fidel Castro's eight sons. That's because he has been seen as the team doctor and leading cheerleader for Cuban teams in televised international competitions such as the Pan Am Games, the World Baseball Classic, and the Olympics. And this week Tony hosted U. S. superstars in Cuba.
         In fact, Tony Castro is upfront in leading the push for both baseball and softball to return as Olympic sports. That has made him many friends in the United States.
       And in fact, this week even with 8 U. S. superstars and 2 Hall of Famers making headline visits to Cuba, the media still swarmed around Tony Castro for interviews. In the above photo, ESPN's Paula Lavigne is interviewing Tony. USA Today sent a top team, including its best sports columnist Nancy Armour, to the island to cover the goodwill MLB visit. One of her screaming headlines was: "CASTRO'S SON KEY TO CUBA THAW." From Matanzas, Cuba, Ms. Armour wrote: 
                      "The symbolism was striking. Exactly one year after President Obama announced the normalization of relations with Cuba, the two countries flags flew side by side atop the scoreboard of Estadio Victoria de Giron. Castro's youngest son, Antonio, has a passion for baseball rather than the family business of politics. But he is well aware -- more than ever after the last three days -- of how baseball could be a catalyst to help repair five decades of bitterness and distrust between the U. S. and Cuban governments." Nancy Armour, in America's largest newspaper, quoted Tony Castro as saying, "We've conscious of what baseball means. What we've experienced today, and what we've experienced these last couple of days, is very exciting." Yes, exciting for baseball and for U.S.-Cuban relations.

     Like his father Fidel, Tony Castro was a baseball star in his youth. But now as a doctor and an international ambassador for baseball, Tony's love for golf is also paramount, and he's quite good at the sport. In this photo, Tony is being awarded a trophy for winning a golf tournament. He joked, "Being Fidel's son was a non-factor today, please believe me!"
        David Haugh is the top Sports Columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He was in Cuba this week to cover Major League Baseball's goodwill tour of the island. On Saturday, Dec. 19th-2015, the title of his column was: "A Castro Offers Hope For A U.S.-Cuba Future In Baseball." He wrote:
                              "As Antonio Castro charismatically worked the crowd like a trained politician, wearing Under Armour sunglasses and a Nike T-shirt, he would have blended in at any corporate-fueled baseball stadium in America. In a week full of symbolism, Castro connected as the handsome face of Cuba baseball, a lively voice that offered hope that this landmark trip meant more than just a getaway to a warm climate." David Haugh wrote about Tony Castro "warmly mingling with Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, two Cuban and now American superstars who defected from his country in the dead of night in a small boat." But coolly and positively, Tony Castro told David Haugh, "We're working on a new relationship, one based on respect where baseball is the language spoken." Haugh's entire article is worth reading.
      And so, this stupefying week in Cuba revealed anew that Dr. Tony Castro's two main passions and focuses right now are {1} baseball and {2} using baseball to help President Obama's long-shot goal of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States. If Tony gets his way, Cubans will be playing baseball in the U. S. without having to defect. If Tony gets his way, Cuban superstars in the U. S. will be playing for Cuba in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. If Tony gets his way, Havana will be the 31st Major League Baseball city in North America within the next decade. If Tony has his way, both baseball and softball will return to the Olympics. And if Tony gets his way, Cuba and the United States will have normal relations within five years. All of that, of course, sounds good for both Cuba and America. The only problem is, it doesn't sound good for two generations of Cubans and Americans who have feasted -- revengefully, economically, and politically -- from the rancor that has existed between the two neighbors for six long and costly decades. So while Tony Castro may have the majority of Cubans, Americans, and the world's citizens behind him, he still might lose in his overall baseball diplomacy. But, his goals and amity are worthwhile.


Afraid of Cuban Issues?

Most Americans Are,
But Not All!!!
Photo courtesy: Grey Allen/NPR
        Yesterday -- December 18th -- the brave folks at the NPR network had a major report entitled: "Little Florida Bank Goes Where Behemoths Fear To Tread." It's a reminder to some that, since the 1950s, most Americans -- BUT NOT ALL -- have been too propagandized or too intimidated to even weigh in on an affront to their democracy -- namely, the U. S. government's alignment with the Batistianos and the Mafiosi in its relationships with the nearby island of Cuba. That anti-democratic posture began in 1952 in Cuba and has continued ever since 1959 in the U. S. after the Cuban Revolution booted the Batistiano-Mafiosi leadership off the island, mainly to South Florida. Stonegate Bank is located in Pompano Beach, Florida. The NPR report pointed out that it is "the only U. S. bank doing business with Cuba."

      Greg Allen, based in Miami, is NPR's only correspondent in the state of Florida. It's refreshing to note that he has the courage and integrity, even from Miami, to provide his listeners and viewers fair and balanced reports on Cuban issues, establishing him as an extremely unique commodity in the annals of modern U. S. journalism. Mr. Allen is the journalist that revealed that little Stonegate Bank in Pompano Beach is the only U. S. bank gutsy enough to legally do business with Cuba.
        On a consistent basis, it is refreshing that one national network, NPR, regularly presents fair-minded reporting on Cuba, including the pros and cons of Cuba's relationship with the United States. Elsewhere, USA networks bend over backwards to make sure they don't anger or annoy America's vast Castro Industry, which frowns on any positive aspect of Cuban coverage. That's just not the way the media is supposed to perform within the confines of the world's greatest democracy. 

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