Saturday, October 29, 2011

Has Obama Heard of Freedom House?

   Recently, President Obama said to the press that " we've got to see significant changes from the Cuban government and we just have not seen that yet.”.  At the time that he said that, the Sixth Party Congress in Cuba had already announced the most drastic alterations to the country's structure since the 1960's.  President Obama was being willfully ignorant of that fact.

   Now, just a few days ago Freedom House, the "independent" group which receives funding from the U.S. government that Obama supports and signs off on, released a new report on findings of a survey it conducted in Cuba.  Freedom House found that 79% of the respondents have indeed noticed changes in the country over the last six months and 63% have favorable views of the reforms. 

   Now I;m not a supporter of the U.S. government spending millions of dollars every year on ways to subvert Cuba's sovereignty.  Nor do I believe that the United States has any right to determine how Cuba decides to do things, or any other country for that matter.  What I do find curious is that how can the president be taken seriously about not noticing any changes when the reports he decides to sponsor with our tax dollars clearly show a disconnect between what he sees and what is really happening?  He shouldn't be taken seriously at all. 

   Could it be that Freedom House is just unable to conduct a thorough survey?  If that is the case then surely they won't be expected to continue their work on behalf of the U.S. government.  Maybe the busy president is aware of Freedom House.  Maybe he hasn't heard of the surveys they conduct in Cuba!

   Freedom House summarized the general sense among Cubans as having adopted a more favorable perception of the situation on the island and as having a stronger sense of progress, and a positive feeling about what the new reforms may bring.  All of this positivity and Cuba still suffers from the most far reaching economic embargo imposed on it by the United States.  Imagine the positivity that they would feel if the United States would end it's embargo, stop trying to undermine its society, and treat Cuba with respect. 

   What is amazing about Obama's strange ability to see things is his ability to  distinguish differences between certain countries in the world.  He sees differences that escape the average person's sight.  For example, he's able to see positive steps by the leader of Yemen, whose people are demanding his resignation.  He even saw that an arms sale to that country at a time when protesters were being killed in the streets with military equipment similar, if not the same, as the kind that was to be sold to that government.  He somehow was able to see that the death of a Libyan protester was more offensive to humanity that a protester in Yemen.  He is able to see what the average person can't when he looks at the repression of the protesters in Chile but complains about the "Ladies in White" are booed and yelled at by fellow Cubans who don't particularly care for them working with the officials at the U.S. Interests Section. 

   President Obama, isn't it time to start looking at things in a genuine way?  Isn't it time to admit that the policy, the embargo against Cuba is wrong?  Isn't it time for a president to lead in a way that demands respect by respecting reality?  All of this nonsense is sickening.  Really.  Ask yourself why you feel that it is OK to let dozens of Cuban children who would benefit from a cardiac plug manufactured in the U.S. called an Amplatzer septal occluder that they can't have it because you believe that you should be the judge of Cuba.  Your stance is disgraceful.  You can see it, if you care to try.

   President Obama, after enduring eight years of a president who lacked the ability to speak clearly, you were a breath of fresh air.  I have no criticisms for your ability to give speeches.  In a bubble, they would be uplifting even.  But unfortunately, most people aren't living in a bubble.  Your eloquence is meaningless without your willingness to actually support the things that so many politicians pretend to stand for. 


Friday, October 28, 2011

A Fake Exile: Marco Rubio

   I've missed a few opportunities to comment on a few things over the last few weeks due to a busier than usual schedule.  But something that I feel like I have to write about is the silliness that Marco Rubio has been in the news for.

   First, it interests me because in some technical way he is supposed to be one of my two representatives in the US Senate.  Second, my intense interest in Cuba and desire to have my country wake up and respect Cuba as an equal nation in this world we live in.

   I am here, literally, because my father came to this country as a child along with his family because my grandfather was looking for a better life.  No, they didn't leave Cuba after the revolution led by Fidel Castro on the behalf of the Cuban people.  They came to this country in 1957 during the Batista dictatorship which was supported by Washington.  Along with Washington's support, Batista enjoyed a warm and personally lucrative relationship with the American mafia, which brought its crime and many vices to the homeland of my father.  Also, he was OK with the fact that the American corporations were exploiting the people of Cuba thanks to a neo-colonial society which was set up to serve the interests of the United States after so much Cuban blood was shed as the people fought for their independence from Spain.  Batista personally fled the island to save his neck with money he robbed from the Cuban people he ruled over until he could hold onto power no longer.

   You see Marco Rubio's family shares a certain similar history with mine.  We recently learned that his parents too decided to leave their homeland to seek a better life in the United States, in 1956 just a year before mine made the trip.  The difference is his story up until now has been that they left to escape Castro and communism.  He failed to mention that they left before the triumph of the revolution.  Why the embellishment of his biography that he now denies as being such?  The answer is simple.  The twisted politics of Florida makes a hero out of anyone of Cuban descent who speaks badly about Castro and the Cuban revolution.  So the role of an "exile" is the one Marco Rubio decided to play.

   By milking this cash cow of anti-Cuban/ anti-Castro politics, he has managed to reach one of the highest levels of power in the US political system and there is even talk of this "young star" being the possible vice-presidential candidate in the 2012 election.  But this ignorant man failed to realize that at that level of the political game his background would be scrutinized in ways that he never worried about in Florida state politics.
   But now we learn that Marco is a fake exile.  "We do have a tendency in modern politics to exaggerate things".  This most recent statement by Rubio might be the most honest thing that has come through his lips lately.

Embellish: Make a statement or story more interesting or entertaining by adding extra details, especially ones that are not true.

Exagerate: Represent something as being larger, greater, better, or worse than it really is.

   Marco Rubio has repeatedly denied embellishing his family history but admits that exaggerations by politicians occur.  However he tries to spin his way out of the web of false history he has woven doesn't change the fact that this less than slick politician found it necessary to change his biography on his website, only after being outed as a liar.  He has chosen to blame the false history on the "stories" handed down by his family as if this were some sort of legend handed down many generations when it is only the story of his parents.

   This Senator Rubio fancied up his family history for no other reason than to gain himself a little street cred, Calle 8 style.  He chose to stoop to a lower level to appeal to the group of extremists in Miami who have a record of hate including trying to make Cubans suffer, even to the point of committing and supporting terrorism.  All of this for personal political gains.

   To me, Marco Rubio is the embodiment of a pathetic and decrepit politician.  He, along with all of the others who are the same, need to be forcefully retired by the public that they deceive and fail to represent with dignity.  Hopefully whatever investigations may be looking into his possible involvement in illegal activities are fruitful and the state of Florida doesn't have to wait all six years for a new Senator.

   As serious as an issue that lying politicians is, I do thank Marco Rubio for providing me with a bit of comic relief over the past few days.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Azel's Opinion: A Common Tragedy

   This is my response to Jose Azel's opinion he titled "Cuba: A Tragedy of Commons".  What truly is a tragedy is the fact that the who have tried to inflict the most suffering on the people of Cuba are people who trace their roots to the island.  They arrogantly try to impose their own ideas on a people they abandoned long ago.

   Is it any wonder that the strongest proponents of the embargo, which has the expressed intention of strangling the Cuban economy, always directly trace the main cause of Cuba's economic woes to actions taken by the Cuban government? As they ignore this fact of the implications of the embargo, although everyone else on earth can clearly see it, do they feel guilt for having such a large hand in the peoples' of Cuba woes? Probably not. They seem to champion all of the amazing results that pre-revolutionary Cuba brought for its citizens.

     In spite of all of those fantastic statistics, the people of Cuba welcomed the expulsion of the previous order. Cuba's per capita income may have been fourth in Latin America, but when you average incomes you find it easy to hide the extremes in poverty and wealth. It may cost more of what a Cuban worker earns than a Costa Rican to buy a box of milk, but in spite of that gap, Cuba not Costa Rica has become the only country in Latin America to have eliminated childhood malnutrition. This may be due to the fact that when you factor in all of the expenses that a Costa Rican faces that Cubans don't, perhaps because in Cuba there are more "commons", many Costa Ricans can't afford the milk after all. Yeah, among the "commons" in Cuba are the lack of wage and purchase power, but also are the benefits like health care. Don't think so? Ask Laura Pollan how much see was set back economically for her acute respiratory illness? I'm sure she won't have to file for bankruptcy as so many Americans have to due to unaffordable health care costs right here in the "greatest health care system in the world".
   Things were so great in the rest of Latin America that since the Cuban revolution, Washington feared the spread of the "Cuban example". Within the first couple of years, Washington felt it necessary to launch new economic programs for the rest of Latin America. After decades, things have remained bad for so many in Latin America that many countries have elected what we call dictators who are looking for ways to include the people who have historically been forgotten or ignored. Although the Cuban example of an armed revolution isn't being followed, similar aspirations of developing societies where a few big gluttonous bellies don't ignore the hungry ones and hide behind economic averages.

   Besides all of the side issues, the one thing that the people who have done everything possible to eliminate the Cuban revolution as well of the intellectuals who can't even find a way to correct the problems of their own countries seem to overlook. It is nobody's place to dictate to Cuba what Cuba has to do. Cuba has the same right to self-determination as any other country should. They may decide to follow the philosophy of Locke, Keyenes, Marx, or Smith. As an expressed enemy of Cuba, the United States isn't even in a position to offer advice. The US will not force Cuba into becoming what the US wants, but if their were at least cordial relations based on respect, the US may be able to offer constructive ideas which would be at least heard. Instead, Washington stubbornly sits from afar offering nothing but slander and insults while squandering any positive possibilities that could be created.      

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Fifty Plus Years And Feet Still Drag On The Way To The Inevitable

   Washington is still drags its feet when it comes to forming a rational policy towards
Cuba.  I think the situation is beyond delusion. There may be a few deluded people
around still, but senility is probably more appropriate of a description if they
hold on to their beliefs from five decades ago.

   After 50 years of Washington's inability to impose its will on Cuba, punishment
can be the only logical explanation for maintaining its policy. It attempts to
delude the public with its silly proclamations from time to time, such as
Obama's recent comments, and with the help of a press that is predominantly
sympathetic towards whatever Washington's foreign policy might be.

   Washington finds it much easier to stick with the status quo than to challenge
it. What Washington needs to find is a way to reverse itself, or at least begin
to, while saving face since it isn't admitting its errors.

   It would love to find a way to get Alan Gross released since it would be
presented as a win for Washington, but for the moment his imprisonment makes a good
talking point for the politicians. Doing anything during a campaign year is
almost impossible because it could easily be twisted into being perceived as a
weakness even though for Mr. Gross and his family it would be a fantastic

   As for all of the attempts to prevent progress on the issue by the usual suspects
in congress, Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtenin and co., all of it was quite predictable and
although it can be worrisome, time itself is running against them and they know it
so they scream more loudly.

   Alleviating suffering never seems to be very high on the to-do list in
Washington so appealing to our politicians' emotions won't get anyone anywhere.
The voters in Florida for the most part can't be described as left of center.
This has become a very right wing state over the past decade or so, and I don't
see that there is any difference particular to the registered voters of Cuban

   Unfortunately, many of the people who would like to see a change in policy
within the Cuban community aren't yet registered to vote and many haven't yet
become citizens. If they would like to outnumber those who control the Cuba
issue, they really need to do so or they will likely just have to wait for the
business lobbies to convince the politicians that things must change.

   The oil industry is one that I'm sure will be exerting more pressure than anyone
else at this point even going as far as to ask for a special exception for
itself, which may be a possibility. But even if such a corrupt exception is
ultimately granted, it would signal the beginning of a sure end in our horrible

   Along with that exception, others must be found so as not to look like they are
just caving in to the demands of Big Oil. Possibly an end on travel
restrictions for all Americans after the 2012 election and a solution to the
Alan Gross issue would lead to the overdue removal of Cuba from the list of
terror sponsoring countries. After those steps it would be possible for the
entire embargo to be dismantled.

   Through it all the anti-Cuba crowd would throw a fit, but they would
be powerless to do anything at all. Perhaps Radio Marti would continue with a
few "democracy programs" if only to throw them a bone, but not much else.

   Of course the US would still find it hard to accept a Cuba outside of its
control, but it would at least be able to satisfy the desires of businesses that
would like to just profit in a market that has always been off limits.

   But still for now, the feet in Washington just drag on.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rationality Pauses For Campaign Season

   The 2012 campaign season has begun.  Not that campaign seasons ever truly end in the U.S., but now there are actually faces to be on TV that declare themselves as candidates.  Along comes the customary promises that almost never will be fulfilled and soon will follow the bombardment of political ads that make television more unbearable than it already is.  And let's not forget the likelihood of over a billion dollars hiding under the irrational farce of being considered free speech.

   Politicians, almost all, from the aspiring representative all the way up to the sitting president are carving out positions on issues that they consider to be safe so as not to run the risk of losing ground in the polls.  So much is needed to be done yet for the next year it is unlikely that any politician is willing to do more than talk about what they will do instead of actually doing it.

   For fifty years the government in Washington has spun itself into a web of lunacy in international relations.  The Cold War, post-Soviet Union, the War on Terror, whatever the situation, Washington finds itself creating relationships and avoiding others becoming more hypocritical and inconsistent by the year.  In spite of all of the nice proclamations that are meant to appeal to the hearts of people, the policies of forceful domination remains a constant.  And when domination isn't possible, Washington becomes even more irrational. 

   The 18th congressional district is represented in Washington by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.  Her claim to fame is her infamous irrationality in influencing U.S. policy towards Cuba.  The U.S. has been unable to join the rest of the world in realizing that Cuba is not willing to submit to the demands of others, as no country should, and forsake its own people's interests for the greed and dominance that Washington would like to impose on the world.  Washington can't say with a straight face that Cuba is a threat or a sponsor of terrorism.  Washington can't claim that it is truly concerned with human rights as it has such a rich history of supporting repression if its interests are served.  So why is the U.S. so stubborn when it comes to Cuba?  Cuba has achieved great feats in comparison with many other nations when it comes to health, education, and international cooperation.  All this means nothing to Washington as it continues to ignore anything positive on the island, choosing instead to invent things that can be used to justify its stance.

    There are two issues that have gained a lot of news coverage recently in regards to Cuba-U.S. relations.  One being the imprisonment of Alan Gross which can only be resolved by rational respectful actions on the part of the United States.  Alan Gross was in Cuba, breaking Cuban law, and doing so as part of a U.S. government program meant to destabilize the country.  Cuba is well within its rights to allow Mr. Gross to remain in Cuba for the full 15 years.  If Cuba decides to release him, it can do so too, but why would it at this point given the refusal of Washington to even attempt to negotiate something?

   The other issue is the oil drilling that will begin soon of the coast of Cuba.  Years back, Cuba stated that U.S. oil companies would be welcome to participate in the venture.  Because of the embargo, U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business there.  Do we think that the oil companies don't want a piece of the action?!  Of course they do.  But I'm not here to cry about the U.S. oil industry not being able to make more money than they already have.  But I do wonder what the people of Ileana Ros-Lehtenin's district must be thinking as she leads the charge in preventing any cooperation in the event of an oil spill that could destroy the livelihood of much of her district.  Instead of acting responsibly, she attacks and threatens the companies that will be working with Cuba.  A bi-partisan letter, by a group of congressmen that depends on donations from the old guard extremists in Miami, was sent  to the Spanish company that will be drilling in the attempt to scare them from violating pending legislation.  Pending legislation!  Since when was pending legislation law?  As quickly as the letter was received it was dismissed.  The Spanish company has surely done its homework and will be careful not to violate the hopelessly spiteful embargo.

   Surely Ros-Lehtenin is worried.  Surely she screams louder since she is aware that the majority of Americans , including Cubans living in the U.S., are tired of this situation that has lasted for over five decades.  She has nothing to offer but disgruntled proclamations against Cuba.  She is doing nothing except try to prevent any logical cooperation in the event of an oil spill.  This nonsense is enough though for her.  She will continue to be funded by the dinosaurs in Miami whose wish of controlling Cuba never dies.  She need not sound or act rational, for if she did she would be betraying the only issue she is infamous for.  Besides, it's campaign season, and the president is unlikely to do anything to change the status quo of the embargo.  He too is jockeying for money and support from some of the same people, although he does so at the risk of alienating those who thought that he was smarter than that.

   Ileana can sleep well for the moment, but she will soon be quite distraught when after the election season the oil industry and others will be able to pressure Washington just enough to start the crumbling of the house of cards that the embargo is held up by.  The issue of Mr. Gross will have a chance of being  genuinely attended to and other aspects of the embargo will loosen as well.  The United States is capable of doing the right thing, it just unfortunately takes a while for it to do so.  We will get a chance to witness Ileana screaming and kicking while the world ignores her nonsensical rhetoric and she looses the only issue that has kept her career in the spotlight.  When that time comes, she will see how quickly her relevance vanishes and the Cuban and American people can be friends and respect each other, learning from each other and sharing in this thing we all share, life.